Five Times I Saw David Bowie Live In Concert

I've never been to Coachella; the idea of spending 3 days in the desert with all those dirty hipster hippies has never appealed to me. The one year I was seriously considering going was the year Bowie was rumoured to headline the show -- if he'd signed on, I was going to BE there. The rumours turned out to be fake.  Fortunately I’ve been luck enough to see him on five other occasions....

1. Cal Expo, 1990 on the "Sound and Vision" tour.

Adrian Belew was his guitar player. This was my first concert NOT accompanied by an adult. Though we had to leave slightly early to get picked up by my uncle, as he was our ride home.  I went with my friend Ben.  I remember being bummed we had to leave early to get our ride. At least so I thought. Upon seeing us walk up to the car, my uncle (being one of the coolest people ever) said “you could have stayed until the very end of the show, I understand”.  

My t-shirt from this show is still in the dresser.  The “sound and vision tour” logo on the back destroyed itself after the first wash. It was then that I learned the tip about “wash your concert tees inside out”.

2. Shoreline Amphitheater with Nine Inch Nails and Prick opening, 1995.

(Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass.) NIN were rude and insufferable. Trent Reznor kept cussing out the audience, threatening to leave early and saying “we still get paid”.  I’d seen NIN once before; they were rude that night too, but tonight I was more upset about it. (You’re opening for David-freakin-Bowie you twit. Shut up, play your songs, and be gracious about the opportunity you have.)

Bowie’s band came out and schooled NIN on how to put on a proper show.  It was epic -- a much bigger, more intense stage show than the Sound & Vision set had been.  The production was closely tied to the theme of the “Outside” album he was touring to support.  We were given the “treat” (depending on your perspective) of the NIN set “blending” into the Bowie set -- the 2 bands did a handful of songs together before Bowie took over for the night.  Their version of “Scary Monsters” was well done, I’ll give Trent that.  

I was mesmerized moreso at this show than the previous show. I went with 2 long-time friends, Aaron and Lisa.  Lisa kept looking over and smiling at how much I was freaking out. It was a good night to say the least.  The t-shirt from this show still gets worn on occasion.

3. Shoreline Amphitheater, The Bridge School Benefit, 1996.

(Gail Ann Dorsey on bass; Reeves Gabrels on guitar.) Bowie did about 5 songs semi-acoustic out in the middle of the afternoon. Bridge School Benefits always have tons of guests and great bands, but Bowie was the ONLY reason I bought the ticket. The rest was gravy.  So much so that I brought a book to read while the other bands played.  Seriously.  I went with a co-worker, who’s name I can’t remember.  He was a huge Pearl Jam fan and was basically going just to see them, I was going just for Bowie. Neither of us cared that we weren’t that interested in the other acts (tho many of them were quite good).

4. The Warfield in San Francisco. 1997 (Earthling tour)

(Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass.) No opening act. An intimate theatre show. David’s in-ear monitor had some radio interference and he had to start 1 song over mid-way thru. I believe it was "Panic In Detroit".

I went with Laurel, my co-worker Scott’s wife. She was a go-to concert buddy for a couple years while I lived in the bay area.  Initially I asked Scott “hey is Laurel busy tonight?” and was told yes that they had plans. After I called Laurel directly and explained that I had David Bowie tickets, her plans vanished.  Clearly we all had the same priorities here.

The band was incredible.  A great mix of old and new and deep cuts.  Bowie was gracious and the band was delivering at 100 percent.  My tour poster from this show is framed and hanging in the family room. Alas, the ticket stub was lost many years ago.

5. The Shark Tank in San Jose, 2004 (Reality tour)

(Gail Ann Dorsey on bass. Earl Slick on guitar.) David opened with "Do You Know The Way to San Jose", a treat just for the San Jose show.  They played a bonafide rockstar set (along with the much appreciated combination of old and new songs and deep cuts thrown into the show).. It was big and epic and even sitting nowhere near the front, it still felt incredibly engaging.  I went with my friend Brenden.   We met in Stockton after work, drove down to San Jose, and didn’t make home until 2am.  On a work night for both of us. Worth every bit of the coffee we needed to stay awake the next day.  I can’t remember why I didn’t buy any souvenirs from this show.